● By Aimee Cormier
By Amanda Jean Harris
The world is going natural from head to toe. And beauty products are no exception. From homemade balms to designer brands infusing essential oils, the natural way of things is becoming the norm more and more in beauty and skincare products.
The locals in Acadiana are on board with all things natural. The proof? We’re doing more than just buying the goods. Local folks are making them as well, often inspired by family and personal needs.
One of the most popular nationally is from Lafayette’s own Maria Lambert — Jules and Esther.
“People have become so much more open to natural skincare, and it is great! It used to be that women wanted the latest and greatest department store buys with the most scientific sounding name, but now they are realizing that not only are most of the marketed promises made not delivered, but they are putting harmful ingredients on their bodies and face, as well,” Lambert says. “Natural skincare and makeup has come so far and natural formulas can be just as effective, complex and luxurious as the chemical formulas. And they usually work better!”
For mommas like Molly Deshotels of Pacha Mama Soaps and Herbal Remedies the study of herbs combined with her family’s needs created a business. She can be found at the Horse Farm Artisans’ Market on Saturdays or on Facebook with a bevy of soaps and balms.
“I have been studying herbs and their wonderful medicinal properties for several years. As my family began to grow I created an herbal medicine chest which, among others, included salves, tinctures, tea blends and hair rinses for our various needs,” she says. “About this time, a close friend and I experimented in soap-making, which I instantly fell in love with, and I am very thankful for having shared with her in this experience. Using the wonderful healing powers of plants and their essential oils in our body products and natural medicines inspired me to create Pacha Mama.”
Pacha Mama is a more earthy approach to natural products with handmade labels and locally sourced goods like honey, while Jules and Esther has a sleeker package design and branding look. Either way, people are getting on board more and more whether they’re buying at a local festival or market or finding natural goods at a national chain.
“I’ve also noticed that many mainstream stores are embracing natural beauty and it is wonderful,” Lambert says. “For instance, Target has started offering a big selection of natural products online and at their stores in bigger cities. I definitely see a movement happening for more transparency in skincare products and a demand for natural products as more people learn about the harms of traditional skincare and makeup.”
Much like the Pacha Mama products born out of need for personal skincare issues, Jules and Esther was actually the result of Lambert addressing her own skin issues.
“I developed facial eczema in college and after using prescription cream after prescription cream with no results I started frequenting Sephora looking for anything that would help. When that didn’t work either, I started researching natural remedies, which also led me to discovering the beauty industry’s dirty secrets and all of the nasty things that go into most mainstream products that can cause hormone disruption and even cancer! Not to mention what these ingredients do to the environment,” Lambert says. “The Environmental Working Group has a “Dirty Dozen” list of the highest offenders of hormone-disrupting chemicals, and it’s pretty scary how many of these are in everything on the shelves. Most of what you put on your skin is absorbed into your body in one way or another. I remember being pregnant and shopping for a new body wash and being completely horrified at how difficult it was to find just ONE product without icky chemicals in it.”
Eschewing icky chemicals yet getting results is one thing this writer can laud about essential oils. While national brands are all the rage, one local brand — Aromatic Infusions in Youngsville — has hit the market offering the full line of essential oils and carrier oils, which can address ailments from congestion, allergies, digestive problems and PMS to headaches and skin issues, anxiety, attention issues, prevention of infection or viruses and pretty much anything else you can think of. Essential oils can be diffused, combined into blends for the best bang for your buck, applied to skin or even ingested (the latter of which should only be done when one fully understands oil safety.)
Essential oils that are widely popular include lavender for it’s calming effect, thieves or other germ fighting blends to prevent colds and flu or viruses, and uplifting citrus blends that can impact emotions and attention or alertness. Aromatic Infusions offers the full array.
“We are the essential oil company specializing in pure, organic, local products. We distill many of our own oils and hydrosols. Whenever possible, we obtain local ingredients and distill the herbs here in Lafayette,” says founder Charles Kountz. “When that is not possible we obtain our oils from a trusted organic source here in the south. Quality is our concern. From our Argan oil to our Jojoba, we make sure our products are 100 percent real and organic when possible.”
Keeping things local is something that is at the forefront of Jules and Esther, as well, says Lambert.
“Acadiana has been a huge influence on J&E! It’s actually named after my grandparents, Jules Norval (J.N.) and Esther Calais. My grandfather was a farmer and from an early age he taught me the value of what the earth had to offer and how to be a hard worker,” she says. “Also, I used to sneak into my grandmother’s bathroom all of the time and secretly play with her ample supply of skincare and makeup. So when I was deciding on a name, it made so much sense to honor the two people who showed me the value of hard work and who piqued my interest in nature and skin care.”
Many of Jules and Esther ingredients are inspired by Louisiana including sugar cane.
“For instance, our Exfoliating Treatment Cream uses glycolic acid made from sugar cane to remove dead skin cells and make the complexion glow. And I am working on a new facial oil with squalane derived from sugar cane. Traditionally, it is made from shark cartilage or olives, but a sugar cane derived squalane is light and quickly absorbed by the skin. And definitely the floral essential oils I work with remind me of home, most notably rose and magnolia,” she says. “You’ll also notice some things on the packaging inspired by Louisiana. We do have pastel versions of the Mardi Gras color trifecta of green, gold and purple. And the subtle wicker pattern on some of the products was inspired by the chairs on my grandmother’s porch in Parks. Also, the label on our Cleansing Milk was inspired by my favorite New Orleans hotel, The Monteleone.”
While Lambert doesn’t sell essential oils outright, their rise in popularity has certainly influenced consumers who now find it more acceptable to apply oils everywhere — even their faces.
“People are much more open to using oils on their face. It really used to freak people out, because most of us were brought up thinking that was a huge no. Now people are realizing that there is an oil for every skin type and the benefits are endless!” she exclaims. “Additionally, an all oil product doesn’t need a harsh preservative like a water-based moisturizer, so you get a safer product that is more potent because it is made with only key ingredients.”
Keeping products pure is at the foundation of all three brands — Aromatic Infusions, Pacha Mama and Jules and Esther. While local products are not a new concept, the ability to take them from just selling to friends and family to a national launch is more possible than ever.
“I think technology has a huge influence on the way people buy and talk about skincare now. When I was in high school, my purchases were often influenced by what I saw in magazines and by word of mouth. Now, you can log on to websites and see what people are saying about products, you can watch your favorite beauty blogger review a product on YouTube, you can shop for items on an app,” Lambert says. “Social media has made it so much easier for smaller brands such as myself to gain traction in a market where we were mostly ignored before. Now we are able to cultivate shoppers through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Often times that leads to us being noticed by bloggers with a huge number of followers that spike sales even further.
“Successful skincare lines used to be limited to large companies and the gigantic media outlets and magazines that would cover them, but it isn’t like that anymore,” she explains. “People are expanding their skincare selections beyond the uber popular and most recognized brands and they are starting to fall in love with the hidden gems that are the smaller, natural and organic skincare brands.”